Monday, May 25, 2015

Music Nights...back-to-back.

Had not been to the Windjammer on Isle of Palms in a few years.

In fact, the last time might have been for a Cracker show.

Room looked the same but the lighting had REALLY been improved.

If blinking lights and flashing, dashing lasers make you dizzy, try to find a seat because otherwise, you'll fall down.
In fact, I saw at least two people slam to the floor. But I think it was a beer fall.

I was standing, leaning back on one of the two pillars so I had some space - and support - in the packed room.

Oh yeah, that's NOT Bono up on the stage in the shades.  A very U2 look.

It's Singer/songwriter David Lowery in the crusty straw hat and lead guitar Johnny Hickman behind him.

The flashing lights are great for the audience and showmanship.

But, I had to pick my moments to have light that was camera-friendly on the band member I was tracking.

I got lucky a few times.

If you have never been to the 'Jammer, it's up a flight of stairs and has a deck out back.

Step outside and you're overlooking the beach and a steady cooling breeze comes wafting off the Atlantic.

On a hot summer night, you really appreciate taking a break out back.

The music was loud, had a nice beat and you could dance to it.

People sang along and heads were bobbing to the steady bass line and drums.

It was a nice Saturday night at the beach.

The next night I was in a very delightful haunt that I visit often - The Pour House - for a rocking night with the Lee Boys.

I have seen them here several times before and really appreciate the excellent sound engineering.

It's immediately apparent this sacred steel music is NOT sittin' and listenin' sounds.

The band is family - three brothers and three nephews .

They present a joyous mix that started out as inspired, unique Gospel music with a hard-driving,Blues-based beat.

The crowd grew and people were dancing, hopping up and down and shouting, laughing, singing and clapping.

Obviously this band likes to make people feel good!

Doing research on the Lee Boys, I read - and really believe - it's Gospel music infused with rhythm & Blues, jazz, rock, funk, hip-hop, country and even influences from other nations.

It's possible there were other cameras there but it looked like everybody was holding up a phone cam for either stills or shaky video.

Hint: don't rock your camera along with the music. Makes for some awful playback. Keep it steady.

Changes made in the PoHo surroundings has opened up about 25% more floor space.

Bands playing music like this encourage people to break loose and dance around a lot.

The two nephews doing the singing and rhythm hand-clapping kept the activity level very, very high.

Obviously the Lee Boys have a Charleston following and the crowd showed its appreciation for the full 2-hour set.

I also have seen fantastic  prowess on the pedal steel guitar by  Robert Randolph and the Family Band.

And some great timing here, RR and the Family Band are scheduled for the Windjammer on Monday, June 8.

I have seen and enjoyed his music many, many times in Charleston as well as Atlanta and Washington, D.C.

Get yourself a second helping of pedal steel sounds just two weeks from now.

(Click on the photos for more details)

I try to add links to expand coverage of bands appearing here. I enjoy - and support - live music.

Even Opera last week. Yikes.

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Saturday, May 23, 2015

A very full birthDAY celebration.

You start a full day of birthday celebration with a hearty meal.

Hyman's was an easy choice because they are wise enough to send a birthday greeting - along with a free meal coupon.

Owner Eli Hyman told me years ago that he targets locals.

Oh, the tourists have found the place, hence the crowds out front, but residents go there as well and take their visiting friends.

Many places sell crabcakes but those at Hyman's draw me back, again and again. And the shrimp and grits is done perfectly.

Coffee, boiled peanuts and hush puppies make a fine Southern appetizer.

Denny's also offers a free birthday meal but a Grand Slam would have meant an earlier start of the day.

So after a fine meal, and a little walkabout, we went to the Dock Street Theatre to watch the final dress rehearsal of a "new" opera that Spoleto unveils tonight.

New because although it was written 350 years ago, it was performed only twice. Yikes.

This is the third time for the 1652 opera and before a highly different audience than the first time.

One thing was the same - you had to understand Italian.

There was no English translation so we had to guess what was going on.

This scene featured one of the comical characters who was showing his appreciation of the Amazonian soldiers.

Or, it could have been something entirely different.

Oh, the birthday boy had obtained free tickets for the preview show. I have no idea where??

Seated in a balcony box, we could hear thunder booming that grew louder and louder.

Hmm, it didn't match the action on the stage so we realized there was quite a rain happening outside.

We stayed dry getting back to the car but soon pulled into the MUSC parkade for shelter.

My phone had buzzed an alert that heavy hail and 60 mph winds were about to hit.

I watched people with umbrellas - and many without - as they scampered through streets starting to flood.

If puddle-jumping ever becomes an Olympic event, Charleston would win medals.

We have lots of practice, especially on particular streets around the market and the Crosstown.

The hail did not appear so we eased out and slowly wound our way to Highway 17 South.

Ruby Tuesday has an offer of a free hamburger and piles of fries on your birthday.

We have gone there on birthdays before.

It was Happy Hour so the giant beer on tap was our choice.

This is one of the few places that still has an elaborate salad bar. Buy just the salad or - for a much lower price - add it to you entree.

While we were eating the  freebie, I looked over the bar and saw a family seated by the window.

But this was the only one with the man hoisting his baby up in the air. Several times. The baby loved it.

So we finished eating and there was a free movie we wanted to see at the IMAX.

We had about an hour to kill so we stopped at Craft Conundrum, a neat beer place next to Bi-Lo that used to be a Piggly-Wiggly in West Ashley.

I decided to suggest to the bartender that they start a tradition of giving a free beer to someone celebrating a birthday.

They agreed!

Said they already had such a free beer deal.

Wear the Viking helmet while drinking the beer and there is no charge.

I felt very Opera-like with the horned helmet on my head.

The blonde pigtails came with the hat.

Others in the room had seen all this before but I felt it was worth a picture.

From there, it was only a short drive to the IMAX for a 3-D showing of The Avengers.

Oh no, I forgot my ear plugs!

The good news is the 3-D glasses work much better now that cataract surgery eliminated my need to wearing regular glasses.

And, of course, my buddy had earned a free admission.

I pay the Senior rate but for 3-D, there's an additional $2 fee added on. His free admission saved him about $15.

The day was carefully planned to make sure we were back at my house in time to watch the final David Letterman Late Show.

In 2013, we were in New York and secured two tickets so I can proudly say "Been there, done that and have the T-shirt."

And, of course, those two tickets were free.

You had to apply months in advance and didn't really know if you were going to get them until the day before you flew up to NYC.

A bonus that day in 2013, we stopped in the Hello Deli and got a picture of Rupert Jee. And bought my dark blue t-shirt with yellow lettering.

I wore it while we watched Dave say goodbye.

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Spoleto: a "new" opera to premiere......

A buddy of mine got us tickets yesterday to the last dress rehearsal of the 1652 opera Veremonda, the Amazon of Aragon.’

Spoleto presents a modern day premiere of this Baroque opera  Saturday night, May 23, and I really enjoyed my sneak peek yesterday.

I grew up in Charleston - leaving as a teen to join the  Marines - but this was my first time sitting in a box in the balcony of the Dock Street Theatre and, quite frankly, the seats up there are much more comfortable than those below.

The opera, written about 18 years before settlers landed here to create the Holy City, was only performed twice.

First in Venice, and then Naples, in 1652. It was political, contemporary, and, as opera director Stefano Vizioli says, full of revenge, guilt, and lusty heat. 

“And it’ll be even hotter under my hand,” added the Neapolitan.

Nigel Redden, Director of the Arts Festival, welcomed a small audience of mainly writers and photographers who have greater freedom to capture images during the afternoon last dress rehearsal.

Unfortunately, he said, there was a technical glitz so there would not be an English translation streaming along.

My Italian, she's not too good, so I concentrated on taking pictures and trying to guess who was who.

I figured the handsome tenor had to be the General. Only saw one lady wearing a crown so I'm pretty sure that's Veremonda, the lady in the title, the Spanish Queen, who gathers together an army of Amazons.

Set in Gibraltar, the plot parallels the conquering of Granada—including Gibraltar—by King Ferdinand II (King Alfonso) and Queen Isabella the Catholic (Veremonda) in 1492.

With a bellicose zeal pitted against her husband's indifference, Veremonda sets out to end the war against the Moorish army by forming her own female Amazonian one to carry out the siege.

Being staged for the first time in more than 350 years, it explores the concept of women in power and leadership roles, highly relevant to the current political conversation.

I had no idea what the plot was and there were no prompts to help me figure it out.

Later I read that audiences will enjoy passion, comedy, raunchiness. melancholy, regality, betrayal, defeat and victory. Yikes!

 I saw some funny bits by several actors but mainly had my camera ready to capture visual dramatic or frozen moments that popped up on the stage.

The Amazon soldiers formed a nice chorus line and moved with dance precision even if I had no idea what was providing the necessary suspense and expectations.

"It is my responsibility to bring opera to the people so they can find some personal connection and discovery through it," Director  Vizioli said.

And I am sure there were.
 A comment was made that without the streaming English libretto, one would have to experience it the way it was done three and a half centuries ago.
 Speak - or at least understand - Italian. 

(Click on the pictures for more detail.)

This was not "A Night At The Opera."

More of an afternoon delight following a hearty lunch  around the corner at Hyman's Seafood.

Hey, there were two of us. I'm watching my diet. LOL.

There is some healthy stuff on that overflowing table.

Collards, for example. Greens are good for you.
As are shrimp & grits.

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Monday, May 18, 2015

B-O-S-T-O-N like the city....

Yes, let's harken back to the 1970s and 80s. 

When music was music and LOUD was loud.

Family Circle outdid themselves this night. I doubt there were any small white folding chairs left in their storage facility.

ALL of the chairs were placed on the clay courts so a maximum number of bodies could share space and two-sided contact with each other.

Well, until the music started.

Then we no longer were seated cheek-to-jowl.

Standing, singing, swaying, mini-dancing and having a great time!

I did not remember the band Boston that well. The founder, Tom Scholz, is listed as the only original member.

As befits him and its origins, Tom wore an MIT t-shirt as he moved around and played a variety of instruments. 

Did I mention the captivating light show and projected images of space, earth, rocks, and boulders.

Oh, and the flying saucers, comets, moons and a hitchhiker thumbing a ride in the desert to Planet Nebula?

Only the drummer Curly Smith stayed in one place .

Everyone else darted around the brightly-lighted stage, did solos and duos, and then quickly ran back to their assigned starting point.

Showmanship and an avalanche of tunes that everyone seemed to know and sing along with.

Standing for almost the entire show, I watched people squeeze through the non-existing space between rows. And climb over pairs of chairs.

Past laughing and singing fans to leave and weave away for another beer or to work their way up the stairs to the bathrooms.

At one point Tom Scholz attacked the keyboard so hard and furious that it started smoking!

Well, theatrical vapor, not really on fire.

But his playing sure was burning the place down!

Everyone on stage was moving at a marching band pace - 120 beats to the minute instead of 60.

The excitement was contagious and we all caught it.
Different members of the band would "team up" for portions of a song.

The constant changing back and forth added its own element of fast paced activity.

Needless to say, all the band members are good at what they do.

The advantage of sitting, er, standing,  in the 3rd row cannot be over-emphasized.

You almost feel you are part of the show.

Looking around me in close quarters, it was easy to see long-time fans who knew - and sang along  -all of the songs.

Another pairings brought Gary Pihl, the lead guitar and the agile bassist Tracy Ferrie, together as a light-flared duo at the front of the stage.

Beth Cohen, the lone lady, would leave her keyboard at stage right, bound to the front and either solo or buddy up for a brief part of a song with Tommy DeCarlo, the lead vocalist..

She was just as light on her feet as her bandmates.

There was a lot of high-fives (low-fives?) between band members and the standing audience.  Guitar picks were thrown to the crowd at the end  - and again after the encore - but none sailed all the way to the 3rd row.

Saw a happy fan on the way out holding up her pick with the band's name emblazoned in color.

I have several treasured picks at home - especially one handed to me at House of Blues in North Myrtle Beach, by the late, great B. B. King.

No souvenirs tonight as I walked back to my car.

(Click on the photos for some amazing details.)

I did not see any NY Yankee caps tonight.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

AfroPop at the PoHo...

African traditional music, blended with
jazz, calypso, hip-hop, took over the stage last night at the Pour House.

The Nigerian band LAGBAJA, meaning "the mask" in Yoruba, features the leader on sax wearing a mask.

He is accompanied by percussion, core drums, chants and Western instruments, and, obviously, the saxophone.

The 8-person band is on its first U.S. tour in 9 years.

The night before they performed in Atlanta at the Variety Playhouse.

The mask symbolizes somebody, nobody, anybody or everybody. His emphasis is on social issues and pure entertainment.

As he said, the lyrics often get them in trouble. Then he showed an example, going after equivocating politicians with the musical title "Just answer with a Yes or with a No."

Lively doesn't come even close to describing the pulsing music and the evening of gyrating adventure for the diverse crowd.

Dancers swayed to the beat and my feet shuffled a little too.

Well, I never have been a dancer but it was impossible to not be swept up with the rhythm and motion.

Described as "my little sister," the lone female contributed greatly to the sound and the fury.

Colorful outfits contrasted with the stark traditional white "baggy" pants of the leader.

The core drums varied from the upright conga-type carved wooden ones to small, hand-held drums, pounded by hand and with a curiously curved stick.

Everyone had a solo or two and the music jumped from frantic pace, back to slow and melodic then pounding again.

In the background there was an accomplished keyboard player and a solid bassist who had the easiest job in the world.

A conventional drum kit added its effort to the musical melange.

It has been an interesting several weeks of music for me. First the Doobies, followed by the Two Man Gentleman Band, the spirited March Fourth, Shrimp City Slim, John Fogerty doing his CCR hits and Francine Reed belting the Blues.

Last night the "opener" was Lee Barbour and his Cubano surf rock band, Post-Cobra.

(Click on the photos for more detail.)

Use the link to hear sounds of Lagbaja.

Did I mention I love and support Live Music?

Well, I do.

And I have pictures - and memories - to prove it.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Open Containers in Savannah...

It's been a while since I've been in Savannah which is silly.

Hey, it's an easy drive. The Lowcountry scenic marshes of the ACE Basin are delightful and apparently there are very few police cars on the highways.

The two we did see ticketing someone were driving unmarked cars.

One was a bright red Mustang, festooned with discreetly-placed flashing blue lights.

Not behind me fortunately.

I had forgotten that - just like in  New Orleans - you can walk around with a plastic cup filled with adult beverages.

I recall carrying around wine during the art walks in the (other) French Quarter in Charleston a few years ago.

It was soon banned outdoors but you could still have wine inside a gallery.

Last week I did a Brewery Crawl up in Charlotte and have had a lot of craft beer experiences so, this time I stopped for a cold "normal" one in World Of Beer.

Literally saw bottles from Belgium, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and the Czech Republic.

The large bottle of Chimay Ale towered over the others and poked its neck up through the next level.

 As soon as we got to the room on the 6th floor of the Hyatt, we looked out and saw a very large container ship, cruising past the River walk, headed for the port.

As they passed, crew members were waving, laughing and anticipating shore leave after crossing the Atlantic.

A ship from Shanghai takes only about 13 - 15 days to reach a West Coast port.

Checking this out, I found that arriving at an East Coast port, like Charleston and Savannah, goes on and on for 30 to 40 days, depending on where it leaves from, what's being shipped, the type of vessel and, of course, the weather.

The large ships average  about 480 miles a day when at sea.

So these crewmen were ready for some dry land and wet beverages.

The Market Square area - and all of the Historic District -  was packed. The streets were filled with crowds milling around and moving in clusters. Sidewalks were filled. I almost spilled some of my beer.

Proud parents with their new graduates sons and daughters.
A few young men were sporting black, square, tasseled mortar boards, while relaxing in t-shirts and shorts.

Bachelorette parties, people pedaling hard on a movable bicycle-powered bar, singing as loud as they could.

Speaking of singing, that was what drew me to Savannah this Saturday before Mother's Day.

Years ago, back around 2002, I went to a Lyle Lovett concert and he brought out a Blues singer named Francine Reed.

He later appeared on one of her records as did Delbert McClinton.

She has a voice, born to sing the Blues.

Ms Reed plays close to Atlanta and seldom tours outside the state, so I was hungry to hear her again.

That night I would sit in the audience and enjoy her songs in Springfield, Georgia, at the totally restored Mars Theatre.

It was about a 25 mile drive there, and the sunset looked promising, but the sun would dip after her show started.

We were about 45 minutes early so we cruised along the Main Street, looking for a place to get a quick sandwich.

Got a beer and fries at a crowded, popular sports bar/diner called Gaffney's Cheap Seats and hurried back to the theatre.

As we parked, I was pretty sure I saw her and some band members standing off to the side, not quite ready to head in.

Obviously I am a shy person but we introduced ourselves as big fans and said we had driven down from Charleston to see her show.

She wanted to know how long it took us and I said about 2 1/2 hours. Ms. Reed smiled and said she would sing real nice for us.

Then she posed with us for a few pictures.

Inside we got popcorn and a beer (it was a theatre so naturally there was popcorn) and took our seats down front.

She was welcomed and introduced by Tommy Deadwyler, Director of Cultural Affairs for Springfield.

He referred to the restored Mars Theatre as "a big gem in a small town."
Opened in 1945, it flourished until 1957 when television diminished the audience.

It sat vacant until the City of Springfield, with a grant from the Fox Theatre Institute, spent 7 years restoring it and it opened again last year in April.

That added to my appreciation of the setting and the Trio opened with a few songs before Francine Reed took the stage.

It is so nice to hear talented people play and sing. The room was good and the sound was excellent.

Each of the band had their solo and was richly applauded.

She was in fine voice - a bit gravelly in just the right places -  as she sang stories of love and adapting to what life throws at you.

"One Monkey Don't Stop No Show" was a favorite I had liked from before. It was written by Bette Midler and Ms. Reed owns it.

"My baby jumped up this morning,
sat on the side of the bed.
He said, "I'm leaving you, baby."
And this is just what I said.
I said, "I can't make you stay if you want to go,
but it's high time , baby, that you should know,
One monkey don't stop no show,
One monkey don't stop no show.
So, if you still wanna go, go ahead, 
and I mean every word I said."
My baby thought I was jivin'
and he went right out the door.
He left me about three in the morning,
I got me a man at four."

She pleased us again with "Wild Women Don't Get The Blues, "Been There, Done That" and many others and the 2-hour show flew by.

At one point she said "I just love the smell of popcorn. Could I have some...and a beer?"

The next morning was Mother's Day and many ladies were treated to a lavish buffet in the atrium lobby of the Hyatt.

There were two carving stations and piles and piles of oysters and shrimp.

The streets were quiet and the parking garage that was packed to the gills the night before was now almost totally deserted.
As we were leaving. so was another container ship.

One had arrived when we did so another was heading out, down the channel toward the  broad Atlantic.

Hope the offshore tropical storm Ana did not cause them any grief.

We had sunshine and clouds but no rain.

Leaving Savannah on US 17 North, we quickly were back in South Carolina.

The first ubiquitous fireworks stand had a compelling reason to pull over to take a picture.

Actually two reasons. Shouldn't there be a donkey to have equal time?

But this trip was more about music than alcohol so I didn't worry seeing a pink elephant the morning after.

Enjoy in moderation.

And, do catch a show by Francine Reed. Most likely at Blind Willies in Atlanta.

Unless the Charleston Music Hall can get her to drop in.

I'd go again.

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Friday, May 08, 2015

Road Trip!

John Fogerty concert in Charlotte. Time to hop in the car and hit the road.

Great show, nice evening and less of a drive than to Atlanta where I saw him in 2013.

John hasn't lost a step and that strong, abused voice of his is still clear and working strong.

Both of his sons, Tyler and Shane, are in the band and came together with him for a driving trio of strings at stage center.

Here's John recapping to Rolling Stone magazine his great times in the 60s with CCR:
"In the very beginning, before many people knew about Creedence Clearwater Revival, we were sort of considered an underground band, and an album band. 

Then the hit singles hit, and songs like "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" and "Cotton Fields" became so well-known people thought of them as singles. 

So, in its own time, Creedence went from being an unknown darling to Cinderella because we were the little engine that could. 
We became very, very well known – maybe even over-exposed, as some used to say. 

We got to the point where people were like, "CCR? They're a singles band. They're just like the Monkees." 

I lived through that and chuckled, because there was a time when I was far away from the music scene.
Then I had my big comeback with "Centerfield." By then, the vintage wine had aged very well. It was now a collector's item and valuable. 

All these younger rock critics were asking me, "Are you surprised with the artistic acceptance of Creedence?" I would just kind of look bemused and tell them that I didn't do anything different. I didn't redo anything. It just sat there and something evolved around it." 

The show was great and seeing and hearing Fogerty of course was the purpose of the Road Trip.
But, I kept my camera handy during the drive and captured some roadway scenes to share.

The "Killer trees" on a deadly stretch of I-26 are being cut down, trimmed, ground up and spread out as mulch for the grass that will be planted.

Hoping there will be a barrier erected to keep cars from crossing the cleared median and making contact with startled drivers coming the other way.

The overall plan might be to clear cut trees wherever they happen to be and keep paving and adding lanes.

In a car-happy setting, the loss of trees will be overshadowed by the "benefit" of more lanes for more cars.

My buddy had gone to the site that promotes tourism for the Queen City and saw two suggested Brewery and Pubs tours.

One group was in the NoDa (North Davidson) area but we chose the first ones we would come to on the South Side.

We stopped and began our "crawl" with Olde Mecklenburg Brewery.  We understand this new, expanded brewery opened earlier this year with a huge tree-shaded biergarten.

Its German atmosphere - and biers - is a real crowd-pleaser. We had a flight of 4 different beers. Each of us had a flight.

Next was not a brewery but Good Bottle Co is a retail store that has an amazing array of craft beers for sale and a few delicious choices on tap at the small 10-stool bar.

Saw several Westbrook beers brewed in Charleston.

 When I asked if they carried any others from Charleston, he showed me a new arrival, tall bottles of Holy Ninja Oyster Porter .

This new arrival is made by Asheville Brewing, in cooperation with our own hometown Holy City Brewing Company off Dorchester Road..

These two stops opened early and we knew the next three didn't open until 4 pm. 

So a little after four, we entered Triple C Brewing Company, a friendly place that was preparing to tap a cask.

Had tried some cask ales during a beer celebration at Closed For Business a while back. 

Took a sample taste but decided to broaden my scope and ordered a flight of four of their different beers.

You could look through window and see the huge shiny silver tanks where the magic happens.

 While working my way though my glasses of beer I noticed there was a lot of activity as patrons finished their beers and presented growlers (glass jugs) to take some home with them.

The "Baby Maker" was touted as having the highest ABV (alcohol content) and seemed to be very popular.

One of the lady bartenders chatted with us and said she had attended the College of Charleston so knew our city well.

She asked if we knew Sam Spence, Web Editor with the City Paper?

Yes we did and it turns out, he is her brother. Small world.

Let's see, memory's a bit hazy, but the fourth brewery on our list was filling with people getting off work and stopping by for a cold, tasty draft.

 Signs suggested you "Take a pitcher. it'll last longer."

But we stuck with the 4-glass flight that lets you enjoy an overview of the product.

I took pictures instead.

Sycamore Brewing also served a turkey panini with chips which was appreciated.

Lunch had been a bratwurst and German potato salad. That had been hours - and many beers - ago.

As we sat on benches in a shady spot outside, the breeze felt good and we felt fortunate that a projected tropical storm was not due to have an impact until the next day.

About the time we finished the last of the beers, we agreed to skip the last brewery and concentrate on having GPS guide us to the concert site.

Good move.

The Unknown Brewery would have to be done another day.

Looking at its website, it appears to be zany. Definitely on the next trip.

So, we found the outdoor arena, parked and went looking for our seats.

And a beer stand.

We had been seeing full-page color ads in the Post and Courier touting the charm and diversity of Charlotte.

That led to finding the suggested brewery tours.

We told each brewery how and why were chose to be there.

I used to sell advertising and know merchants like to hear when something is working for them.

And remember, while there were a LOT of beers, they were in small 4-5 oz glasses.

Drink responsibly.


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